Midweek sanctuary by Andy O’Shaughnessy

I awoke early, to the sound of the Recycling crew doing their job. The weekends wine intake being placed noisily in the correct hopper, followed next by a blitz of empty beer-cans. My god, did we really consume that many??

Looking out, I observed a foggy dawn, the sun attempting to burn through and the prospect of mild temperatures ahead. After the previous full day back at college, which totally exhausted me with hours of concentration, I felt I deserved a day on the river.

The journey across the downs was swift, but cautious, Pheasants would still be half asleep in the mist as they patrolled their territories. Deer too, might by confused by the fog and could often be spotted close to the roadside.

First stop at Waitrose, for some baits, and a treat (or two) for myself. The coffee shop tempted me, the hot bread very nearly worked, but I had an appointment with nature...

The Fishery car-park was empty, after all, it was midweek, I took my usual couple of minutes taking in the atmosphere, and listened. The rooks greeted me, and in the distance I could hear the gurgling of the river. How I enjoyed the anticipation of firstly hearing the river, then viewing it in all its winter glory. I chose a swim where I had chatted to an angler previously, my knowledge of this fishery was increasing fast.

A selection of free offerings were put out, and a simple but confident rig was cast, just so, and, with this job done, the first brew of the day followed.

It wasn't long before the resident kingfisher was spotted as he flashed past on his was to “his” branch. Close by, a chime of wrens were busy disputing territory, Very common down here I had observed.

Yesterday was a million miles away.

I imagined for a moment. Yesterdays train would have the same faces onboard, some staring at notebook screens, others nodding their heads to the latest Mp3 download or making countless mobile calls, are they really necessary I recall thinking at the time? And here was I, in my very own first-class compartment, fresh tea and my own Audio Visual display: Mother nature herself.

I had just taken a bite from my second Danish pastry when I noticed an obvious drop-back bite, the rod buckling over, just as my hand gripped the butt. A descent brassy Chub gave a good account of itself in the fast current. I was pleased, I recalled, having witnessed Chub on the Windrush being first on free offerings, only to be bullied out, by Barbel. Would this be true here as well??

My hot tea was cold as I returned to the chair, another was set in motion. It was now quite mild, and life was wonderful.

Was that a knock? The tip bounced again, hand poised, it whipped round, my Fox Barbel special bending alarmingly before my reel smoothly released line. Cupping the skirted spool and applying pressure, I regained control as the fish raced up towards the sill.

My increasing pressure, turned the beast, and assisted by the strong current, shot down the pool to the shallow area at the tail, where it briefly surfaced. I saw its dorsal, a Barbel!!

Suddenly I treated her with “ more respect” not wishing to loose my prize. We became locked in a tussle, in which both of us neither gained or lost line. A change of rod angle saw her kite sideways, the current forcing her towards my waiting net. She was mine, I said to myself as a pristine Kennet Barbel slid gently into the waiting mesh.

I was jubilant, overjoyed, my first from this stretch and in late November! Swiftly unhooked she was soon back in the net to recover in the gently flowing margin. She looked stunning as the Autumn sun shone though the water, adding gold shimmering bars to her own golden flanks. I admired her form, her bulk, and her sheer beauty. Recovered, I lowered the rim for her, and she glided away, gone, but never to be forgotten. 8lb 6oz of Kennet gold, Christmas had come early.

Andy O'Shaughnessy

re-generated Feb 2007